Since today is Christmas I will write a short article on this.
Holidays are something both children and adults look forward to. Children could skip a day at school and adults could skip a day at work. On certain big festivals like Chinese New Year, Thanksgiving or Christmas, the atmosphere of the festive season would start a month before or even earlier, giving people a holiday mood and something to look forward to.
Unfortunately, many of the holiday seasons have been commercialised to encourage spending. Christmas, a religious date significant for the Christians, has been commercialised and its original meaning twisted to it being ‘a season of giving and sharing’. Pretty sure I do not need to go into detail the shopping frenzy tied to Thanksgiving, which is supposed to be a day of giving thanks for the harvest of the preceding year (how many of you know that?). The same goes for Chinese New Year. These are the official holidays.
What about the non-official holidays? How about Mother’s Day and Father’s Day? Suddenly everyone became a filial son and daughter because they treated their parents to a fancy dinner or buy them a fanciful gift on that particular day. The annual 11.11 mega sales manufactured by Taobao clocked 84.54 billion USD in sales in 2021.
Big or small, businesses are always trying to find ways to earn your money by manufacturing the hype and the mood for buying. What seems to be a tradition may not actually be a tradition a few years back. Big or small, almost every month, there are always something to get you to spend money. Perhaps let me give you an example below of the well-known ones I can think of that people across different cultures would know.
February: Valentine’s Day
May: Mother’s Day
June: Father’s Day
November: Black Friday or 11.11 Taobao sales
As mentioned earlier, the above writes down the major festivals or days which everyone around the world knows. Those empty gaps does not mean there are no holidays or manufactured spending encouraged by businesses. The empty months can probably be filled in by your country’s own holidays. For example, China’s Dragonboat Festival typically occurs in June and Mid-Autumn Festival typically occurs in September.
Of course, one may not spend at every single event manufactured by the businesses, but the more of such events they come up with, or the more of such holidays they manage to commercialise, the more they earn. I would not expect a 90 year old grandmother to spend money at Halloween, but I would not be surprised if she bought some gifts for her grandchildren at Thanksgiving and Christmas. Christmas is a religiously celebrated day. What if the grandmother only brought her grandchildren to the church and celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ, then brought them back home for some food and that’s the end? Would the grandchildren like it? No, they would not like it. Christmas has been so commercialised that these children now expect gifts. The grandmother is now somehow obligated to buy some simple presents for her grandchildren in order not to disappoint the young.
Or, you expect to get away with no gifts for your girlfriend on Valentine’s day? Would the ladies be satisfied with the boyfriend not minimally bringing them out to eat a nice dinner and giving them a gift? But do you know that Valentine’s Day originates as a Christian feast day honouring the martyr called Saint Valentine? Businesses are able to turn a day honouring the martyrdom of a Christian to a day where people profess their love, give gifts and roses to each other.
Of course, spend what you have to. Impress your girlfriend on Valentine’s day if you need to. Buy Christmas gifts for your grandchildren if it makes them happy. But do not let these manufactured holidays or spending events dictate your views. If your boyfriend did not give you a present on Valentine’s day, does it make him lesser of a boyfriend if he treats you well everyday? If your children did not take you out for a fanciful dinner on Mother’s Day, does it make them an awful lot? Conversely, if your son ignores you for the rest of the year but treats you to a Father’s Day dinner, then takes some pictures and uploads them onto social media, does it make him a filial son?
As we go about our daily lives, let us not be pressured by these so called manufactured traditions created and twisted just to earn your money. For holidays that are relationship based (eg Mother’s Day, Valentine’s Day), look at how the other person is treating you all year round. For other societal holidays (eg Thanksgiving, Christmas), perhaps by now we have no choice but to follow what others are doing, but remember the importance and the significance of it. Maybe you are not a Christian, but if friends gather around during that period, treasure the reunion instead of focusing on the gifts that you will exchange. My friends and I have more than once organised a Christmas gift exchange event for the fun of it, with each present’s budget limited to $1 at its lowest or $5 at the higher end. The idea is to have fun but also understanding that the most important thing is not the presents but the friendship we all share.
Lastly, do not get caught up in all these spending obligations, or you will find yourself falling into the trap which the businesses made.